Solastalgia has its origins in the concepts of ‘solace’ and ‘desolation’. Solace is derived from solari and solacium, with meanings connected to the alleviation of distress or to the provision of comfort or consolation in the face of distressing events. Desolation has its origins in solus and desolare with meanings connected to abandonment and loneliness. As indicated above, algia means pain, suffering or sickness. In addition, the concept has been constructed such that it has a ghost reference or structural similarity to nostalgia so that a place reference is imbedded. Hence, literally, solastalgia is the pain or sickness caused by the loss or lack of solace and the sense of isolation connected to the present state of one’s home and territory.
Solastalgia, in contrast to the dislocated spatial and temporal dimensions of nostalgia, relates to a different set of circumstances. It is the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault (physical desolation). It is manifest in an attack on one’s sense of place, in the erosion of the sense of belonging (identity) to a particular place and a feeling of distress (psychological desolation) about its transformation. It is an intense desire for the place where one is a resident to be maintained in a state that continues to give comfort or solace. Solastalgia is not about looking back to some golden past, nor is it about seeking another place as ‘home’. It is the ‘lived experience’ of the loss of the present as manifest in a feeling of dislocation; of being undermined by forces that destroy the potential for solace to be derived from the present. In short, solastalgia is a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home’.
Any context where place identity is challenged by pervasive change to the existing order has potential to deliver solastalgia. New and powerful technologies have enabled transitions to occur to social and natural environments at a speed that makes adaptation difficult if not impossible17. While some might respond to such stress with nostalgia and want to return to a past state/place where they felt more comfortable, others will experience solastalgia and express a strong desire to sustain those things that provide solace. Solastalgia, as opposed to atavistic nostalgia, can also be future orientated, as those who suffer from it might actively seek to create new things or engage in collective action that provides solace and communion in any given environment. Solastalgia has no necessary connection to the past, it may seek its alleviation in a future that has to be designed and created.
I thought might resonate with what some readers are feeling in this Canada and World.
*Albrecht, Glenn. 2005. “Solastalgia: a new concept in health and identity.” PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature 3:41-55.
Albrecht, Glenn et al. 2007. “Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change.” Australasian Psychiatry 15(s1):S95-S98.